Intense. Driven. Competitor. Tough. Gritty. Clutch. Leader. Intelligent. World Champion.
These are all words that immediately come to mind when Angels fans think of Darin Erstad, but seem far removed from the vocabulary one would use to describe the current Angels club.
This young Angels team seems long on talent and short on competitive will.
Are the 2010 Angels less talented than the 2002 roster that won it all, or did Erstad and company simply want it more?
Angels fans have been hearing about the "upside" of their young talent for years. As many of these prospects have now made it to the majors and are rapidly approaching the age of 28, many have stopped thinking about upside and are now simply asking the question, "what is up?"
When is Howie Kendrick, 27, going to turn from a very average second baseman into the batting champion he was touted as being?
Will Kevin Jepsen, 26, ever mature into a dominant reliever, or is he the West Coast washout equivalent of Joba Chamberlain?
When is Erick Aybar, 26, going to develop into the leadoff hitter that everyone thought he would be?
Will Jeff Mathis, 27, ever be able to play well for longer than two weeks at a time?
When will this team start doing the little things championship teams need to do to win?
I don't think there is anyone in the Angels lineup this season that would allow themselves to be hit by pitches 27 times like the 5'7" David Eckstein did in 2002.
In fact, their entire team has been hit a grand total of 35 times.
The 2010 version of the Halos clearly lack focus and the hunger to win. So why not bring back the most focused, competitive, and intense Angel of all time to help motivate them?
Erstad brought the football mentality he acquired while playing as a kicker for the University of Nebraska to the diamond every day. Even when he wasn't hitting well, his very presence was invaluable to the Angels.
Erstad wasn't interested in chatting it up with his opponent when they were standing on first base. He was too busy thinking up ways to destroy them.
How many times do the current Angels coaches have to watch Bobby Abreu stand on second base giggling with the shortstop—only to get picked off?
There is a fine line between being loose and just not caring, and the Angels have crossed it. Their coaching staff should be calling them out on it—veterans or not.
Today, Erstad is filling in as an assistant baseball coach for his alma mater, but it's hard to believe he would turn down a chance to return to the majors—especially with the team for which he had his finest years.
Although he never officially retired as a player from baseball, Erstad decided this winter he would rather spend time with his family than be relegated to a bench player role in the National League.
He told the Orange Country Register he would have a tough time justifying being away from his family for eight days in a row for the sake of three at-bats per week.
Angels fans would not expect any less of a statement from a man of Erstad's character. However, a man as competitive as Erstad can only stay static for so long before he needs another competitive challenge.
Challenging would be a great word to describe the job Erstad would have in front of him if he were offered a chance to help his old team as a coach.
Tweakers who have blown up their apartments cooking meth under their sink think the Angels have bad chemistry.
The Angels can have all the closed-door meetings they want for the rest of the summer, but clearly whatever is being said is falling on deaf ears. Manager Mike Scioscia's riff might be wearing thin and new motivational voices may need to be heard.
In particular, Erstad would be an excellent candidate to replace Dino Ebel as the third base coach. Maybe Erstad, a former Gold Glove first baseman and great base runner in his own right, might be able to clue the young guys in on why it's not a good idea to try to steal third with two outs or bunt with two strikes—looking at you, Erick Aybar.
One thing is certain. Erstad would be welcomed home with open arms by appreciative fans who remember how he sacrificed his body diving for balls and legging out singles on seemingly every play.
That mentality is contagious, and hopefully these Angels can catch it before they are permanently immune.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!